AGCC Sun. a.m. 5/5/2002


TEXTS:  Ephesians 4:1-32


We are living at a time when one can join just about anything without having to change anything or make any serious commitments. My email program is flooded daily with requests to join everything under the sun. The qualifications are usually stated something like this:
      "Nothing down"
      "No minimum purchases required"
      "You can't be turned down"
      "No payments until next year"
      "You don't have to do anything now"
- In other words, all you have to do to qualify is be living and breathing oh, and have money! Let me assure you that in God's kingdom IT IS DIFFERENT, big changes are expected, and required! While it only requires faith and confession to find a new life in Christ it requires a changed perspective and behavior once we have come to Christ. We must "put off the old self" (4:22) and then "put on the new." (4:23) The biggest hindrance for unbelievers accepting authentic Christianity is not doctrinal or theological, it is often the lack of finding truly transformed believers whose lives give witness to the power of change the Holy Spirit makes in us. The name "Christian" should match the reality! ILLUS:In one Polish city there is a street named Beautiful. It is probably the ugliest street in town. Unpaved, it is filled with ruts and potholes, and to drive faster than five miles an hour would be unthinkable. Obviously the street didn't turn out the way planners had hoped. What about our lives? -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). Being "NEW" is not an option when we come to Christ everything changes, all things become new and it must show to the world, to the Church, and to our family and friends! PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that in Christ we become a "NEW CREATION." This means the Church is a "NEW CREATION" also. There is nothing in this world like the Church or the Christian and the world must see revolutionary lives, lives transformed by God's power.

I. NEW REALITY     4:1-6

A. Passionate     4:1-3 1. Ultimately, it is not so much our beliefs that teach the world about Christianity as much as it is our behavior! (This mirrors Paul's comments about us being "letters read by everybody." 2 Cor. 3:2) a. Paul is quite clear about his passion for living correctly before God and this world he says, "I urge you " b. It is no mere suggestion, Paul's point is simple: "If you belong to Christ your behavior does too!" c. We are called to live a life "worthy of the calling" we have received in Christ. 2. Too often people who claim to be believers talk as if God is real but act as if He were not. a. Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, peace and unity are the norm for Christian living, not the exception. b. No matter our position we need to be sensitive to one another, to reflect the very character of Christ to even be careful about using truth to hurt one another! ILLUS:A minister took a guilt trip in a sermon: "I let the congregation really have it. Their stewardship was dismal, their participation was weak; and they were wallowing around in their own shortsighted pursuits. After my sermon, in which I really let it all hang out, a little old lady said to me with a smile, 'Pastor, I hope you'll feel better soon.' " -- Oscar Handlin, quoted by Martin E. Marty in Context (Oct. 15, 1985). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 16. 3. Notice that while God is the one that grants peace and unity we are the ones responsible for "keeping it." Eph. 4:3 "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." a. We have responsibilities for fleshing out God's graces! b. It is not an automatic thing or forced on us by God. 4. We must be passionate about God's graces, not just in principle but also in practice!! B. Priority     4:4-6 1. Paul now strongly develops the theme of "oneness" for the Church! a. Diversity in unity! b. The Church cannot afford to divide itself, at stake is the witness of the Gospel which has the power to make us into one body, His Church! 2. Unity cannot be achieved by casualness in commitments; the Church cannot afford "casual relationships" characterized by a lack of commitment. a. It is not enough to simply park yourself in a Church body; you must participate in its life and commitments! ILLUS:Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers. The hitchhiker's thumb says, "You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas--and I'll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I'll probably sue." So it is with the credo of so many of today's church attenders: "You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills--and I'll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I'll complain and probably bail out--my thumb is always out for a better ride." -- R. Kent Hughes in Disciplines of a Godly Man. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 6. b. The Church doesn't need "hitchhikers" it needs "family" members! 3. In the Church "one is not the loneliest number" it is the number of God's unity and power! a. So great is the call to be united that it is mandated above personal rights! b. It is more important to be right with each other than simply to be right on an issue, mutual relationship is greater than personal rights! c. This was demonstrated by Christ Himself on the cross he died though He had done nothing wrong because He wanted a relationship with us, He willingly gave up His rights to reunite us to God. 4. In a culture that has elevated "my rights" above everything else this will be a challenge for the believer, but it is still a must! a. We are different from this world! b. We are new creatures; we must die to the old ways. c. God puts a premium on unity, so should we. II. NEW RESPONSIBILITIES     4:7-16 A. Perspective     4:7-13 1. Unity doesn't mean we all do the same thing, just that we love the same way! a. God gifts us differently in His body so we can minister to one another and to the world. b. This diversity however is not meant to divide us, but to unite us. 2. No one should elevate himself or herself above anyone else; we are in this together for mutual benefit and growth. a. The Church will never accomplish the tasks of ministry if we don't work together in unity! b. There is no power in disunity, especially in God's Church! ILLUS:A man went to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was a bit surprised to find that there were three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, "Aren't you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?" The guard said "Lunatics never unite." Locusts do. Christians should. If we don't, we don't know where our power is. -- Haddon Robinson, "The Wisdom of Small Creatures," Preaching Today, Tape No. 93. 3. What are you doing to contribute to the unity of the Church, or to its disunity? a. Each gift is given with the purpose of building up the whole. b. The Church cannot afford to neglect any gift given by God. 4. The purpose of these gifts in an atmosphere of unity "is to prepare God's people for works of service." 4:12 a. You will note that all of God's gifts are given to "BUILD UP" His Church, not tear it down! b. So called "gifts" that tear down a Church are not God's gifts! 5. The fruit of unity with gifts is not only works of service, but maturity of the saints! B. Preparation     4:14-16 1. The function of God's gifts in an atmosphere of loving unity produces maturity. a. Such maturity brings stability. b. Such a church will be protected against schemes and attempts to confuse. 2. This kind of environment broadens the horizons of the believer; he or she doesn't grow up in a very narrow understanding. a. "Individualism" makes one small! b. We cannot grow much by ourselves, we are too small alone! c. Disconnected believers from a Church body never develop to the potential God has for them. ILLUS:I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. That also happens to some Christians. I've seen the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. But if you put them into a larger arena--into the whole creation--only then can they become great. -- Charles Simpson, Mobile, Alabama in Pastoral Renewal. Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 1. 3. This "new self" can only grow well when it is united to a body. III. NEW RELIABILITY     4:17-32 A. Pitfalls     4:17-19 1. Paul's language here again tells us how important the issue of "being different" or "new" is once we are in Christ! a. Eph 4:17 "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do " b. We MUST not live as we did before we received Christ we MUST live differently or we make a mockery out of God's grace, we cheapen it! 2. If we have been delivered out of this world let us show it! ILLUS:One of the ancient fathers, we are told, had lived with a woman before his conversion, and a short time after she accosted him as usual. Knowing how likely he was to fall into sin, he ran away with all his might, and she ran after him, crying, "Why do you run away? It's only me." He answered, "I run away because I am not myself. I am a new man." -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) a. Let us not be ashamed of being "new" or different than we once were. b. We should be better and not worse! c. The witness of the Gospel is often judged by the reality of change in our lives! 3. The unbelievers of this world live in the fantasy of things being just fine, their understanding is darkened by sin and they can't even see their lostness unless the light of the Gospel shines in on their hearts and conscience! a. We must not be like that now that we have found Christ. ILLUS:A recent novel by Madeleine L'Engle is titled "A Severed Wasp," If you're addressing young people or some other audience with strong stomachs, the title, which comes from one of George Orwell's essays, offers a graphic image of human lostness. Orwell describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him." The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition. -- Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3 b. In Christ we have been healed and can fly again, we must be careful to avoid returning to the empty ways of this world. c. Paul reminds us that outside of Christ we live to satisfy whatever whim comes into our hearts this often leads to painful consequences in sin. 4. We don't have to live this way anymore, in fact, we MUST not live this way anymore! We need to avoid the pitfalls of this world. B. Proof!     4:20-32 1. The world needs "proof" of the power of the Gospel! a. Where will they find it? IN US! b. But only if we "put off the old self and put on the new" 2. What this world needs is more examples of godly people, not more arguments about God's existence! ILLUS:We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. ... Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. -- Gen. Omar N. Bradley in a 1948 Armstice Day address. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 4. a. We may not all be well versed in science to stand toe to toe in a debate, but we can stand tall as examples of God's grace there is no argument against a godly exmaple!!! b. The world won't be changed by TEXTBOOK LECTURES as much as it will by TRANSFORMED LIVES! 3. Paul's final remarks in this section deal with demonstrating the putting off of the "OLD SELF" 4:26-31 a. Don't sin with the wrong use of anger! b. Those who once stole stop stealing and work and earn a living! c. Don't let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but build one another up. d. Don't grieve the Holy Spirit cooperate with God's Spirit. e. Get rid of ALL bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. 4. Paul ends this section by adding the positive of what we should do when we put on the "NEW SELF." 4:32 a. Be kind b. Forgiving one another. 5. There is great power in forgiveness, it is the very example of God's love for us and when we put on the "NEW SELF" it means putting on the same garment of "forgiveness" toward others! a. Forgiveness reveals the power of God, and it is the need down deep in the heart of every human being! ILLUS:Ernest Hemingway wrote a story about a father and his teenage son. In the story, the relationship had become somewhat strained, and the teenage son ran away from home. His father began a journey in search of that rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, Spain, in a last desperate attempt to find the boy, the father put an ad in the local newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, Meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father." The next day, in front of the newspaper office, eight hundred Pacos showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness. They were all seeking the love of their father. -- George Munzing, "Living a Life of Integrity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 32. b. We really show proof to the world that the Gospel has power when we forgive, this shows the "NEW SELF" we have in Christ! 6. The Church, like the Christian, is a "NEW MAN" the old has died and a new has emerged. a. But we must give the new life expression. b. And we must avoid returning to the old. 7. Do others know that you are different since you found Christ? Is the old self dead and the new self demonstrating proof of God's power? CONCLUSION:    The first step in salvation is confession of sins and of Christ as Lord - but this is only the INITIAL step. After this first step comes conversion! Conversion means becoming something NEW - it is a process of becoming what we are in Christ, a NEW MAN or NEW WOMAN! It means "change" - from the old ways to the new ways, God's ways! How's the development of the "NEW" going in your life - is the change apparent to God, to you, to others? It MUST be! We are a new creation in Christ, so let the world see it!